Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Playoffs, Day 7: East taking control; West in flux

Howard, Zetterberg even things with 'Yotes
I can't think of a clever way to lead into this game.

Henrik Zetterberg scored a pair of goals and Jimmy Howard bounced back from a subpar Game 3 outing to make 29 saves in Detroit's 3-0 victory over Phoenix to even that series at 2-2 and turn it into a three-game set.

The Red Wings learned their lesson from Game 1, when they allowed the Coyotes power play to convert three out of four chances. In Game 4, Detroit successfully killed off all six Phoenix chances with the man-advantage, including a 5-on-3.

Zetterberg's first goal came on Detroit's power play and might've been deflected in with a high stick, depending to whom you talk. The goal stood, and Pavel Datsyuk and Zetterberg scored 25 seconds apart late in the third period to ice the game.

Goal judges have itchy trigger fingers as Penguins take big lead
Remember when playoff hockey used to mean a bunch of 2-1, 3-2 games? You know, low scoring? Something happened this year.

Sidney Crosby had four points, including two goals in a three-goal Pittsburgh burst in a span of 2:25, and Pittsburgh fended off Ottawa, 7-4, to take a 3-1 series lead. The Penguins scored the first four goals, chasing Brian Elliott, before things got interesting.

Evgeni Malkin scored the lone goal of the first period, then Crosby scored his two sandwiched around a Matt Cooke tally early in the second period. Cooke's goal came 12 seconds after Crosby's first. The Senators countered quickly, getting Chris Neil's goal less than a minute after falling behind 4-0 and Elliott was replaced by Pascal Leclaire. Daniel Alfredsson's one-timer cut the gap in half, but less than two minutes later, Max Talbot scored shorthanded to give Pittsburgh a 5-2 lead.

Ottawa's Matt Cullen countered 41 seconds later on a 5-on-3. Chris Kunitz restored Pittsburgh's three-goal advantage at 6-3 with 1:49 to play in the second period. The teams combined for eight goals in the middle frame, one short of the NHL playoff record for one period.

Jason Spezza scored on another Senators 5-on-3 with 12:23 to play to make things interesting before Jordan Staal's power play goal iced the Penguins victory. Kunitz added two assists and Sergei Gonchar posted three for Pittsburgh. Cullen had three points.

Thanks for playing
At this point, when New Jersey qualifies for the postseason, we should come up with those "participation trophies" we all got as kids and hand them to the Devils. Thanks for showing up, guys.

Jeff Carter had three points, including two goals, and Philadelphia roared back from allowing the first goal to hand the Devils a 4-1 defeat and earn a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a 5-on-3 power play (we're seeing a lot of those) to give New Jersey the opening goal, and normally the Devils proceed to dumb down the game even more than they normally do, particularly on the road. The Flyers would have none of that.

Carter scored the first of his two power play goals and Daniel Briere staked Philadelphia to a 2-1 lead in the second period. Daniel Carcillo struck for the second time in two games - and had the same dumb "what do I do now?" look after scoring, which is odd since he's scored goals before - and Carter's second tally all but eliminated the Devils, who haven't advanced as far as the conference finals since winning the Stanley Cup in 2003.

Granted, winning the Cup is good, but New Jersey has won three division titles in the last six years and hasn't won two playoff rounds in one year in five tries, including three times being ousted in the first round. This year would be the fourth time in the last six seasons and third in a row.

Brian Boucher made 30 saves for the Flyers.

If it helps for the Devils, they've come back from a 3-1 series deficit to win once before: Against Boucher and the Flyers in 2000.

Paging EA Sports: You guys sure?
In a video game simulation by EA Sports, Chicago won this year's Stanley Cup. I wonder if losing two of its first three playoff games was part of that.

David Legwand broke a 1-1 tie early in the second period, added two assists, and Martin Erat scored late on a penalty shot in Nashville's surprisingly easy 4-1 victory over Chicago in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series advantage.

Joel Ward and Shea Weber also scored for the Predators, who got 26 saves from Pekka Rinne. This is Nashville's first ever 2-1 lead in a playoff series. Also, they're referring to injured 30-goal scorer Patric Hornqvist as "Horny." Seriously? Horny? That's the nickname you guys came up with for him? Horny?

Kris Versteeg scored Chicago's lone goal.

Boyle's Redemption, Sharks stay alive
OK, so San Jose wouldn't have been gone if it lost, but it would've been damn close.

Dan Boyle scored - against Colorado, that is - just 1:12 into the contest, but Joe Pavelski was the hero, as his goal midway through overtime gave the Sharks a 2-1 victory over the Avalanche and new life in the series, which is now tied 2-2. Evgeni Nabokov made 33 saves. Pavelski had an assist and Ryane Clowe had two.

Still waiting for Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau to show up.

Paul Stastny scored for the Avalanche. Craig Anderson continues to be peppered by San Jose, stopping 43 shots.

Stats of the night
43.5, 25.8 - The Sharks are averaging 43.5 shots in four playoff games. The Avalanche are averaging 25.8.

Quote of the night
"We handed control of the series right back to them with our effort."
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews

Wednesday predictions
Buffalo 3, Boston 1
Washington 5, Montreal 1
Vancouver 4, Los Angeles 2 (I have no idea how this series is going to play out at this point)

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